Charles Godfrey “Pop” Duffin GC (EGM exchanger)

b. 25/03/1885 Bermondsey, London. d. 03/01/1955 Portsmouth, Hampshire.

DATE AND PLACE OF GC ACTION: 19-20/08/1936 Portsmouth.

Charles Godfrey “Pop” Duffin EGM/GC was born on 25th March 1885 in Bermondsey, London. He was one of 7 children (5 boys and 2 girls) born to Richard Duffin and his wife Sophia (nee Irving). His father had originally come from Ireland. The family lived next door to the Matthews family, and later in life, Charles would marry the daughter of Mrs Matthews’ sister. In 1910 he married Ellen Louisa Shell and they had a daughter, also named Ellen Louise.

Charles G “Pop” Duffin GC

Charles worked on the Thames at the start of his working life as a carpenter but after the marriage they moved to Devonport. In 1913, he transferred to Portsmouth. During World War One, Duffin was engaged on clearing the approaches to Ostend and Zeebrugge after the raid on the U-Boat base. In 1926, he was keen to travel abroad and the family moved to Hong Kong for 3 and a half years where he did salvage and diving work. After a short spell back in Britain they moved to Singapore where his daughter Ellen met her future husband, Reg Gale.

The family had returned to Portsmouth during the 1930s, when Charles was involved in the incident which saw him awarded the Empire Gallantry Medal at the age of 50. On the night of 19th-20th August 1936, he was working at HM Dockyard when a diver, Charles Gustar, was engaged under water examining the launching geat below HMS Aurora. Signals of distress were received, so the stand-by diver, George Brown, went down and found Gustar jammed between the top of a dagger plank connecting launching poppets and the bottom of the hull. Duffin was sent for, as an additional diver to co-operate in the rescue work. Gustar was found to be securely wedged, with his head, arms and weights hanging over the inboard side of the inside dagger planks and his trunk and legs between the inner and outer planks. Duffin then squeezed himself up between the two adjacent planks and with a handsaw cut through the plank on one side, while Brown released the two 10 inch screws joining the plank to the next plank. By this means the portion of the plank imprisoning Gustar was removed. Duffin seized Gustar and forced him down between his own body and the poppets, towards Brown, who dragged him down and took him to the surface. The risks were great as at any time Duffin could have been trapped in the same way as Gustar.

Duffin was awarded the EGM, which he only held for 3 years before the exchange for the George Cross. Duffin died on 3rd January 1955 aged 69 and was cremated at Southampton Crematorium. His medals are privately held.